This is from the children's book 七色花:

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她一面走着,一面向旁边张望着,念着招牌上的字,...
As she walked, she looked sideways and read the words on the signboard ... [Google Translate]

I'm wondering how 一面向 breaks down. I'm confused because there's multiple possibilities:

  • 一面 (yī miàn) = "one side"
  • 面向 (miàn xiàng) = "face" (in the sense of facing a certain direction)
  • 向旁边 (xiàng pángbiān) = "sideways", or perhaps "to the side"

There also seems to be a grammar structure in play here: 一面[something],一面[something else].

Question: How does 一面向 break down in this snippet?

  • 1
    Judging from the structure, it looks similar with the construction of "一边……一边……". – Reynaldi Aug 9 at 3:29

According to 现代汉语八百词, 一面……一面…… is used to indicate two or more actions are performed simultaneously. They are used before a verb. The first 一面 can sometimes be omitted.

Breaking it down from your sentence, you'll get:

她一面[Adv.] 走着[V],一面[Adv.] 向旁边[Adv.] 张望着[V]

which means "As she walked, she looked sideways" (the same as you translated). Other examples:

  1. 他们一面走,一面挥舞花环,一面欢呼。
  2. 他(一面)用心地听着,一面记着笔记。

There's a side note, though. 一面……一面…… could also mean 一方面……一方面……, which means "on one side ..., on the other side ...". Usually is added on the second 一面 on this construction, e.g:

说明书土一面印的是中文,另一面印的是英文

Yes, as you suspected, the structure “一面....一面...” is in play, and the snippet should be understood as “她 一面 走着,一面 向旁边 张望着。”

The structure “一面...一面...” is used to associate two verbs when the subject performs them at the same time, in this sense it is the same as the structure “一边...一边...”:

一面走着,一面向旁边张望着。

一边走着,一边向旁边张望着。

These two sentences both express:

She looks around while walking.

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